Exclusive: Quibi downloads reach 2.7 million, TV feature to start in May

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - New streaming service Quibi, which offers entertainment and news in episodes of 10 minutes or less on mobile phones, has been downloaded more than 2.7 million times since its April 6 debut, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg told Reuters on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg speaks during a Quibi keynote address at the 2020 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Katzenberg also said that some Quibi users will have the ability to cast the service from mobile phones to their televisions starting in May. Some early viewers had complained that they were unable to watch Quibi programming on their TVs.

Quibi originally had been promoted for on-the-go viewing. Executives stuck with their launch plan even though it came when audiences were sheltering at home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The downloads for Quibi increased by 1 million from the figure the company disclosed on April 13, one week after Quibi launched in the United States and Canada with a 90-day free trial.

Katzenberg called the number “encouraging” for a new service that is not attached to a well-known brand.

“Under the circumstances, launching a new business into the tsunami of a pandemic, we actually have had a very, very good launch,” he said in an interview.

“Obviously we are connecting with an audience out there,” Katzenberg added.

The service is a gamble by Hollywood that it can carve out another category in the crowded streaming video landscape. Its programming features a large roster of A-list stars including LeBron James, Chance the Rapper and Reese Witherspoon.

While streaming giant Netflix Inc NFLX.O warned on Tuesday that growth would slow once stay-at-home orders were lifted, Katzenberg said he expected the impact on Quibi to be "the opposite." Quibi was designed for users to watch on the go while waiting in line, commuting or during other in-between moments.

“The sooner we get back to that use case, I think, is the one where we actually get to see how successful and valuable Quibi could be to its customers,” he said.

After the free trial, Quibi will cost $5 a month with ads, or $8 a month without them. Some T-Mobile TMUS.O customers can get Quibi free for a year.

Quibi’s most-viewed show to date is thriller “Most Dangerous Game” starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz, Katzenberg said. Other top shows are “Chrissy’s Court,” “Flipped,” “Punk’d” and “Survive.”

Its top news programs and talk shows include “Around the World by BBC News,” “The Report by NBC News,” “No Filter by TMZ,” “The Rachel Hollis Show” and “Sexology with Shan.”

This week, Quibi released comedy “Dummy” starring Anna Kendrick as a woman who meets her boyfriend’s sex doll. A trailer for the show has been viewed more than 3 million times on social media, Katzenberg said.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis